Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why DO Guinness bubbles sink?

Apparently, the Irish have been thinking about this problem for a while, and a team of Irish mathematicians have discovered the answer. Via PhysOrg:
that the sinking bubbles result from the shape of a pint glass, which narrows downwards and causes a circulation pattern that drives both fluid and bubbles downwards at the wall of the glass. So it’s not just the bubbles themselves that are sinking (in fact, they're still trying to rise), but the entire fluid is sinking and pulling the bubbles down with it.

...[S]tout beers such as Guinness foam due to a combination of carbon dioxide and nitrogen bubbles, while other beers foam due only to carbon dioxide bubbles. The nitrogen results in a less bitter taste, a creamy long-lasting head, and smaller bubbles that sink while the beer is settling. ... During the past decade, experiments have shown that the phenomenon of sinking bubbles is real and not an optical illusion, and simulations have demonstrated the existence of a downward flow near the wall of the glass and an implied upward flow in the middle. But this is the first time that researchers have shown that the mechanism of this circulation pattern depends on the shape of the glass.
How did they test this idea? Well, they made a computer program that would create an "anti-pint glass"; a glass that is shaped like an upside-down Guinness pint (i.e., it looks like a pint glass turned upside-down, but with what would normally be the lip being closed, and the base open):
To analyze the effect of different glass shapes, the mathematicians modeled Guinness beer containing randomly distributed bubbles in both a pint glass and an anti-pint glass (i.e., an upside-down pint). An elongated swirling vortex forms in both glasses, but in the anti-pint glass the vortex rotates in the opposite direction, causing an upward flow of fluid and bubbles near the wall of the glass.

The researchers explain that the difference arises from the way the sloping glass walls affect the surrounding bubble density. Once a drink is poured, bubbles start to rise. In the typical pint glass, the bubbles move away from the upward and outward sloping wall as they rise, resulting in a much denser region of fluid next to the wall, with fewer bubbles. Because this region is less buoyant, it sinks under its own gravity. Although the nearby bubbles are still trying to rise, the velocity of the downward flow exceeds the upward velocity of the bubbles, so the bubbles that are close enough to the wall get pulled down by the surrounding liquid.

The opposite effect happens in an anti-pint glass, where bubbles tend to clump more near the oppositely sloped wall as they rise. The increase in bubbles results in a less dense region next to the wall, and fluid near the wall moves upwards.
And so now you know: it's the shape of the glass; if your glass was curving inward, you'd have bubbles rising along the outside of the glass (I guess it would be something to try if drinking out of wine glasses).

If you want to (try) and read the paper, here it is:
  • E. S. Benilov, et al. "Why do bubbles in Guinness sink?" arXiv:1205.5233v1 [physics.flu-dyn]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Living in a country that speaks the same language

There are many "guides" and "dictionaries" and "phrasebooks" for members of one English-speaking culture to use while in the other. Living in the US and having lived in the UK, I often find these guides a little funny, being able (I believe) to see something of both sides of the story. It's a reason why I found Notes from a Small Island somewhat humo(u)rous when I read it. It think, too, that it's a contributing reason why I like Andrew Sullivan's commentaries. Growing up as a "third culture kid" and an "expat" means that I am perpetually living in a not-all-the-way-inside feeling to life, and that - at least for me - is normal.

Sullivan recently began posting some of his own perspectives and feelings about being British in America, and on Saturday posted some excerpts from a piece written on the BBC America page. The original piece ("10 Things Americans Do that Drive Brits Nuts") was quite humorous, and it's one of many, many, many similar types of "top 10" lists that embody the "people separated by a common language" trope. However, there was one thing that struck me as having great insight about British views of Americans:
5. Their over-zealous patriotism
We get it, you’re proud to be an American. It’s not like Brits are immune to nationalism, but perhaps we’re better able to separate feeling glad (I was lucky enough to be born in a country with democracy and Kit Kats!) from feeling proud. Shouldn’t the second one be reserved for my actual achievements? Oh, and to your average Brit, hanging a giant flag from your house is a tiny bit creepy.
I've written about this before - how Americans seem to be obsessed with the flag. Maybe the British used to be obsessed with their flag - during WW2, during "empire", during troubling times, etc. After all, their flag, the Union Jack, is of analogous symbology as the US flag: one of unifying disparate nations/states (Scotland, England, and Ireland, in this case). However, even though there are many photos of British people wearing Union Jack clothing, and these are popular pieces of tourist tack (along with "mind the gap" stickers), and - outside of the Olympics and other nation-wide events - these rarely get taken out and worn non-ironically. The same way with flags: other than certain roads that are lined with the Union Jack, few are seen outside of specific days marking memorials, nationhood, etc. Walking down the street and seeing the Union Jack on a non-special day is just ... the height of bizarre.

In Scotland, things are a little different: the Saltire is flown in many more places (public and private) than either the Union Jack or the Cross of St. George is flown in England. (Indeed, the Saltire is flown more often than the Union Jack in Scotland, too.) I think that a large part of this is due to national identity; of constantly being the "younger brother" to England, of having autonomy effectively stripped away at the union; of feeling like (and sometimes being) the underdog.

However, moving back to the US, even in "liberal" and "flag-hating" portions of the country, there are many Americans who proudly fly the Stars and Stripes every day of the year. Indeed, it's normal. It's creepy for someone who comes from almost anywhere else in the world, where flag-waving is often associated with a history of dictatorship or mindless nationalism (which often have overlapped in history).

The staccato chants of "U! S! A!" seem to strike me in a similar way to this sentiment of incessant flag-waving. What it lacks in musicality, historical invocation, and artistry it makes up for in pure syncopative, droning repetition that insists on its own apparent correctness.

Traveling to Canada - a country that lies within biking distance of Ann Arbor - makes for another travel between cultures separated by a common language. I sense the misstep that might occur; the conversational hand-off that doesn't come at the right time; the different set of implicit cultural instincts that will run the unwary aground. To me, these are outcomes of implicit cultural imprinting. It's this that makes the conversational hand-offs awkward or certain statements to hang in the air, waiting for someone to choose whether and how to continue the conversation. I grew up learning to sense and anticipate these gaps caused by cultural instinct, and these things that often make me cautious in stepping too fast or too far. Although sometimes - thanks to drink - I speak more freely.

Traveling to Mexico after being to Chile (and being more proficient in Spanish) made me recognize that what was happening between English speakers in different parts of the Anglophonic world was happening within the Spanish-speaking world. And why should it not have been this way? After all, Chileans and Mexicans (or any other nationality) come from very different histories, local cultures, and therefore have different social expectations and norms that form their implicit social interactions.

UPDATE (5/30/2012): With the Queen's Jubilee coming up soon, the UK has been in really high flag-waving spirits of late. Sullivan points out this trend:
And this is where British patriotism is particularly interesting, because it also focuses on the monarchy, which is a way of indirectly celebrating the country. Next week, Brits will have a four-day weekend to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Bunting, flags, flotillas, marches, street-fairs will proliferate. And it will not be some jingoistic thing. It will simply be a royal anniversary. Because the head of state is not a politician, because monarchy taps into the irrationality of love of country, it deftly deflects nationalism into patriotism. Its very anachronism empowers it. Which is why I couldn't really defend the monarchy's persistence on liberal grounds. But because I'm a Tory, I don't have to.
And I wonder, "why can't it be the same in the US?"

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tornado Tracks

Via Flowing Data:

John Nelson of IDV Solutions put 56 years worth of tornadoes on a map. John plotted each tornado's path and used brightness for its F-scale (level of intensity). He also added secondary charts for deaths and injuries and frequency by F-scale.

It makes a gorgeous map. I would love to see the data incorporated into the wind map.

So... practically speaking, if you live in the Midwest or Southern US, you should probably put this on your reading list.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Then and Now": NYC Municipal Archive photos and Google Earth

The New York City Municipal Archives released a whole bunch of historical photos of NYC. The Atlantic published 58 of them on their website. Some of them were so interesting for me that I decided to try to find the "equivalent view" on Google Earth. With a city as large as NYC, and with so many characteristic buildings, I knew that people would have "built" enough 3-D representations of the existing skyline so as to be able to show "equivalent" views. With all those 3-D buildings in place, it was relatively easy to find the equivalent view of the photographer, be it perched on one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, on the roof of a no-longer-existing building, or in the sky where an airplane or blimp would have flown so many decades ago. One of the things that struck me after finding equivalent views was that New York city in 2012 is far less of a "port city" than it used to be. What do you think?

"A view of the city from the Brooklyn Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, on April 24, 1933. (Eugene de Salignac/Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives)"

"Manhattan Bridge, under-construction, seen from the roof of Robert Gair Building, showing suspenders and saddles, on February 11, 1909. (Eugene de Salignac/Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives)"

"Aerial view of New York City, looking north, on December 16, 1951. (Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives)"

"The Queensboro Bridge, leading to Manhattan, seen on May 1, 1912. (Eugene de Salignac/Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives)"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A rainy weekend, huh?

Well, that's a bit unexpected: rain for the long Memorial Day weekend. I woke up to the sounds of distant thunder and then walked outside (to take my daily photo) and... rain, rain, rain, rain, RAIN! Okay, it's not like monsoon-rain in quantity, but it does look like there will be more rain throughout the next two days.

The forest needs it, what with it being in the peak of bloom.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lawns: were you happy harvesting your grass today?

Today being the Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend in the United States, people all over the country are likely going to go harvest their lawns and remove the stover mow their grass so that they can have a nice area for their friends or family (or both) to lounge around on over the long weekend.

... or just to make it look like they're keeping up with the Joneses.

But why are Americans all over the nation (and likely in all the territories, too) going about this ritual of lawn-harvesting? And not just for this upcoming weekend, but throughout the summer and into the autumn, too? It serves little utilitarian purpose, since the grasses are not consumed and the cuttings rarely used for self-fertilizing, which Kevin Baldwin also points out:
It takes a lot of inputs to maintain such a beast: Regular mowing, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, fertilizer, and in some areas, water.
Even when I lived in Tokyo, the house that we lived in was a "Western style" house, and it had a tiny yard (about 4 ft x 12 ft) and it was all - you guessed it - grass (because the Japanese builders knew that US residents want grass). It was a pain in the butt to try to find a weedwhacker in Tokyo, because it wasn't something that people would buy, because no one had a lawn (and therefore no lawnmowers - even if you could somehow get one into that lawn space, you'd still need somewhere to store it, too). Needless to say, that patch of grass didn't get huge amounts of attention...

Driving through farm country in Michigan one sees the house invariably sitting in the middle of a grass-green bed. Not everyone can make the excuse of playing at football, baseball, soccer, bocce, or lawn bowling. Not everyone really can make the claim that they like lawn maintenance (no matter what home-improvement commercials tell you about it). Few people will deny that calling out a company like ChemLawn to make your grass grow thicker, greener, faster, and more toxically is the best use of their money (unless, possibly, if they're selling the house). Baldwin sums up the contradiction that I feel is inherent in the ChemLawn-treated front yards:
My chemlawn neighbors have these amazingly uniform lawns that look like they would feel nice on bare feet. But, when I walk by after the service has sprayed the lawn, there is that sweet-sour smell that is highlighted by little signs that say to stay off the grass for a few days. The mixed message is curious. I suppose chemicals create new business opportunities: Pet owners can buy booties for their dogs to protect their sensitive paws from lawn chemicals. But there is little encouragement to consider whether the risks of herbicide and pesticide application outweigh the benefits.
And yet, every year in the US, as Baldwin notes, "163,800 square kilometers, plus or minus 35,850 square kilometers, an area larger than Ohio" is being fertilized, watered, and harvested as lawn. And this is taking place in the reasonably wet upper-Midwest and New England as well as the desert Southwest. As John notes, "Your yard is EVIL", using 1/3 of the potable water of the country to feed them:

Some people are moving away from the definition of "yard=grass lawn", putting in native plants, using the place as a vegetable garden, or sculpting the area with a variety of ornamental flowers, ferns, and shrubs. However, the vast majority of US front and back yards are made of green grass. When I mow two paths through the lawn in front of the cabin, I leave the grass clippings to mulch on the lawn. The grass grows tall and then starts to flop over, creating lots of habitat for insects, frogs, snakes, and voles. I will mow the lawn twice during the summer, just so that my mower will be able to handle the job (too long and the grass will become uncuttable for the mower, and the lawn is needed for functions once the academic year recommences).

So for everyone mowing their lawns this weekend for Memorial Day (or - if you're not in the US - just because you feel like you have to), I hope you don't have too hard of a time at it. I'll be spending about 20 minutes mowing two paths through my lawn and leaving the otherwise-unique habitat of overgrown lawn ungrazed lawn to mature.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Toy Story 2 almost didn't happen!

Ahhh... moms... gotta love 'em. Stealing films in-progress to keep their kids entertained... Thanks!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Old-timers on the interwebs.

So... if I have a Yahoo account from 1995, does that make me an old-timer, too?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Solar eclipse!

On Sun (in N. America)/Mon (in East Asia) (i.e., "yesterday"), there was a near-total solar eclipse that was visible in many populated regions of the world. Not in Michigan, though... Still, here are some photos of the event.

Via Danny Choo in Tokyo, Japan. A mere annulus of a sun:

Via The Daily Dish, taken in Santa Monica, CA. Although entitled "Annular", it's more "Crescent":

In Michigan... not so much of a view of this rare event. Still, thanks to these "series of tubes", I can see something of what it must have been like.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Automated iambic tweet poetry

Apparently, there is a 'bot out there that collates tweets that are iambic and constructs "twitter sonnets". This is from The Daily Dish:

From @Pentametron (aka. Ranjit Bhatnagar), the creator of the algorithm
Meet Pentametron. He’s a robotic Twitter account, but he’s not part of the spam variety – he turns tweets into Shakespeare-like poetry, using an algorithm to seek out and retweet the most poetic of our 140-character musings.
And, this is how this Twitter 'bot works:
“If [the algorithm] knows all the words, it checks the [Carnegie Mellon University dictionary] dictionary for the stress patterns of the words, which add up to the rhythm of the tweet. If the rhythm seems to match the pattern of iambic pentameter, the tweet goes into a bin of potential lines of poetry. On average, about one in every 50,000 tweets qualifies.”
So... pretty obvious, right? :)

Enjoy this other auto-sampled creation (with many more here):

Pentametron sonnet

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Evolution of (primarily) Europe

From 1000AD to 2003AD

There is a version without the year counter on the top-left and without descriptions on the bottom-left. While I remember most of the events that happened in the video, it's great to see how simultaneous actions expand.

These maps remind me of the Civilization maps that would come up at the end of playing that game.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Three-point landings

From The Daily Dish, a blurb on "Three-point landings":

Via Neetzan Zimmerman:
The Three-Point Landing is an absurdly overused visual trope defined as landing "on the ground in a crouching position, feet wide apart and supporting their weight with one hand on the floor while the other hand is outstretched away from their body, usually pointed diagonally upwards." At the ROFLCon III supercuts panel — starring Gawker's own Rich Juzwiak — clip artist Duncan Robson (he of "Tumbleweeds" and "Let's Enhance" fame) premiered a compilation dedicated to the stunt TV Tropes warns should "not to be confused with the skydiving three-point landing, where you land on your feet and then fall on your ass."

Another definition of the "Three-point landing" (and, no, it's not a gymnastics scoring thing, but a how-many-extremities-are-contacting-the-floor thing):
A popular visual trope often associated with martial arts. After performing a particularly cool move, or dropping from a great height, the character lands on the ground in a crouching position, feet wide apart and supporting their weight with one hand on the floor while the other hand is outstretched away from their body, usually pointed diagonally upwards. Extra coolness points are added if said hand on the floor is a fist that actually causes damage to the ground you land on.

A common variation of this features a head snap, where the character will land looking downward and after a brief, pregnant pause, suddenly look up just in time for something to blow up behind them.

Very common in manga, anime, and video games, but can also be seen in movies — especially those with visual styles inspired by them.

A pun on "three-point landing," an aircraft landing in which both the main gear (the wheels further back on tricycle gear aircraft like airliners) and the nosewheel/tailwheel touch down on the runway at the same time, which is seen as a mark of skill among pilots. Also not to be confused with the skydiving three-point landing, where you land on your feet and then fall on your ass.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back from Toronto: Thanks to two friends (one old, one new)

I just got back from Toronto. A big thanks to Herr B.D. for letting me stay at his flat and for letting me borrow his bike to go all about the city. Showing me around Kensington Market helped me get some munchies for the train trip today. I hope that we can meet up again to chat and have a great time again (and hopefully use an opportunity to have another design-build on something to make it quietly awesome). Vielen Dank, Herr B.D.!

A big thanks, too, to Ms. TallPenguin for giving me some really great options for eating, seeing, and biking. Also, thanks to her for the great idea of joining to see A Streetcar Named Desire: I had never seen it, and it was ... "WOAH...", and her friendliness to an (up to then) next-to-complete stranger. However, I feel that I must apologize (again) for the exuberance with which I played devil's advocate over wonderfully delicious crepes and tasty beer afterward. I have been told that I can be somewhat overbearing in a conversation. :P Still, one more heartfelt, "Thank you!" to Tall Penguin, and I hope that we can do it again sometime.

Now that I'm back safely ensconced in the forest, I can think again about the things that I have to do tomorrow: work, clean, work.

Tractor beams?!?

Yeah, not quite at the StarWars level (unless by "Millennium Falcon" you mean "small translucent particle").

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Caloric intake overload!

Meet the new "F*ck You Pizza":

13,740 calories?!? Woah. Just... woah... (Yes, I know that it's a joke.)

Just to give people an understanding of what that means for someone like myself (6'3", 245lbs male, 35 years old), according to this site, even if I exercise daily and I have a physical job, I would "only" need to eat 4055 calories/day to maintain my weight. (Now, if I were training for the Olympics, then perhaps eating like Michael Phelps would be a good way to go, though.)

While I wasn't anything like Michael Phelps when I was swimming competitively in high school, I did pound the calories - and lost weight - every day. I remember that I would eat a box of cereal for breakfast, a whole pizza for lunch (in addition to a bagged lunch of two peanut butter sandwiches and an apple), a giant pretzel for an after school/pre-swimming snack, and half a casserole for dinner (leaving the other half for my parents). It caught up to me in my first year at university: I was able to eat a lot, I had been eating a lot, but now I wasn't doing much physical exercise... and my "freshman 15" was in kilos, not pounds.

When I was doing aikido training at Nippon-Kan in Denver, CO, I was also eating a lot of food every day, following several hours of training. My breakfasts were back up to a whole box of cereal (although never sugary cereal), and my dinners were usually a large helping of something from the adjoining restaurant. This second time, though, I was a bit smarter about caloric intake when I stopped the intense training, and I worked at lowering my intake to what seemed like mere bird-peckings.

I now find myself with the ability to eat fast and to eat a lot. It's something that helps me when I do fieldwork - eat a LOT of carbs in the morning, and then do a full day of hard work - but it's something that has made me into a person who always feels like I can eat more. Indeed, I rarely feel fully full. It's why buffets are so dangerous for me. It's why leftovers are so dangerous for me. I can eat in one sitting more than some of my friends comfortably eat in two meals, and still keep going.

That's one of the reasons why I am so happy that I can bike while on this trip to Toronto. Keeping my basal metabolism going while on vacation is very important for making sure that my body doesn't slow down any more than age and work will do to it. Biking allows me to be more mobile than walking and nowhere near as sweaty, while also allowing me to have a great workout. (And Toronto is - no matter what I had thought about Ann Arbor - a fun city to cycle in; at least the places that I've been.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vacation biking

Yesterday afternoon, I went cycling south to go along the Lake Ontario Shore, then headed north to then head south - following the Don Creek - to the old distillery district before heading back to BD's place.

In total that ride was about 42km. (It would have been 40km if I didn't get turned around a bit at the end.)

After dinner, BD and I went for another 26km ride. This time north and through some parks, but I don't know where. I'll have to wait until I'm back in A2 to download the tracks. Still, not bad for an afternoon and evening on vacation!

Rundown on food:
Thanks to Tall Penguin for the recommendations for lunch, snack, and poke around at Distillery District! Tomorrow, I'll be trying out some more recommendations from BD and Tall Penguin. Looking forward to it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why do I bike (part 43)

There's nothing like the feeling of wind on your face as you go sweeping through the landscape.

Today, I wake up in Toronto, in a neighborhood near to the university, and - looking out the window - I see literally LOADS of cyclists riding along the main avenue. Yesterday - Mother's Day - I also saw many people cycling along the roadways throughout the areas of the downtown that my friend and I walked through.

Happily, my friend, BD, has a second bike - a folding bike - that he lent me for my stay these few days, and we took a 13-mile trip out to Toronto's High Park, along the lake shore, and back along the avenues of the city. In some ways, it was more easy to ride the roads of the big city of Toronto than it is to ride the streets of Ann Arbor. I cannot imagine that a major part of it is not due (in large part) to the sheer number of bikes on the roads in Toronto compared to Ann Arbor. (And I thought that Ann Arbor was a relatively bike-friendly city.) Also (and this might be due to the location where I'm staying), there are MANY bike stores in the region, thus feeding the number of bikes and the bike interest. Also, there is cycling infrastructure at street crossings, even further giving a greater (and obvious) nod to cyclists.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two good vids

From SciShow, some good information about breaking-science(ish) news:

From IllDoc (a few days ago), a video about President's statement from a cis male's viewpoint and the discussion from the LGBT community:

Friday, May 11, 2012

My ten most-frequented websites

This last week, a friend of mine asked me what my 10 most favorite/visited websites were. I had to mull it over, and this is the list that I came up with (presented in alphabetical order):
  • Aguanomics
    •  David Zetland provides insights and commentary about the water economics (and water-related topic in general).
  • ClimateProgress
    • One of the parts of, this site has a good set of climatologists and knowledgeable commentators on issues of climate change scientific research, policy, politics, and the social culture wars that have been raised around a phenomena that is about as recognized by scientists as gravity is.
  • Copyranter 
    • My day doesn't seem complete without the ascerbic wit that often accompany one strange and wacky advertisement gleaned from around the world and through time.
  • Dispatches from the Culture Wars 
    • Ed Brayton provides 4-6 entries each day on various topics dealing with culture war issues, including torture, war on drugs, police surveillance, gun control, abortion rights, creationism, religion in the public square, online gambling, etc. He's usually quite sharp in his insights, and although I don't always agree with him, I quite often do.
  • Flowing Data 
    • A wonderful website about how to make data more visually appealing, often through maps, but not exclusively so. There are also the occasional post about theories of how to better present data, how to choose the medium of presentation, etc.
  • PhysOrg
    • All the latest scientific and technological breakthroughs in many different and sundry fields. With hundreds of articles and briefs posted each day, it's often a chore in wading through them all. However, I often do find something of interest. (The one gripe that I have is that the news stories rarely have direct links to the articles that they are reviewing.)
  • Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing 
    • These (often short) blog entries are all focused about an image (or series of images) and a discussion-leader about the socially constructed problems (rarely successes) surrounding the implications, assumptions, etc. that perpetuate social ills. There are often interesting stories, and interesting commentary. However, it does tend to focus on the negative.
  • The Daily Dish
    • It seems almost like Andrew Sullivan gets paid to sit and update his blog about a hundred times each day. (Well, Andrew and some other people, admittedly; but mostly Andrew.) Things that I find most interesting relate to politics and stories about social trends that interweave reader commentary with snippets of what was written elsewhere and Sullivan's commentary on the points as well. (And in case you miss something, there's usually a Daily Wrap for you to catch up.) Other things that are fun are the "Mental Health Break", "Face of the Day" and "View from Your Window" entries (especially the VFWY Contest).
  • Treehugger 
    • What would I do without's often up-beat, never stuck-in-the-weeds, story-upon-story coverage of all things environmental? From yet another "green gadget" to urban agriculture stories to reviews of scientific papers to dire warnings about the future, Treehugger is an interesting place to take an environmental pulse check.
  • What Would JT Do?
    • This blog is one that I came to recently, and (yes) it is a play on, "What would Jesus Do". JT (and Christina) both spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious (primarily Christians, since this is the US, and the majority of hypocritical religious people in the US are Christians). The blog entries are often humorous (at least to me), often showing how unhinged people can get when you make the simple claim that their stated claim lacks evidentiary support.
So there you go, ten websites that I like to visit. There are also a number of webcomics that I like to visit, but that's a topic for another blog post.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The US is a post-racial nation? In what universe?

There were many people who were saying that the US had entered into a "post-racial" period after the election of Barack Hussein Obama. Ummmm.... Not even slightly. Not unless you were someone who thought that the ending of racism was merely checking the box labeled "Black President". Never mind that proclaiming the US to be "post racial" when Obama became president totally ignored the system of racism that is pervasive in government and society. Never mind that a election of a non-White president means bupkis as a discussion about racial politics that aren't black-vs-white. (hey! Remember that there are non-African American minorities in this country, too!) Just forget that there is a difference between electing a non-White president and it being socially allowable to have tasteless cartoons about black people, about othering the president (e.g., continued proclamations that he's not American, that he's not Christian, that he's a terrorist, that he's a Nazi, that he's a communist, that he's a socialist, that he's the anti-Christ, etc.), about proclaiming that he is not respecting the presidency (no matter what he does), etc.

Yeah... we're not in a post-racial nation. What we're in is a nation in which some people think that it is post-racial, and that "post-racial" means, "we can be angry bigots in the open now." And a recent study shows just how not-post-racial the US actually is:
The study, led by psychologists at the University of Washington, shows that between January and April 2012 eligible voters who favored whites over blacks – either consciously or unconsciously – also favored Republican candidates relative to Barack Obama.

The study's findings mean that many white and non-white voters, even those who don't believe they tend to favor whites over blacks, might vote against Obama because of his race. These voters could cite the economy or other reasons, but a contributing cause could nevertheless be their conscious or unconscious racial attitudes.

In the study, a majority of white eligible voters showed a pattern labeled "automatic white preference" on a widely used measure of unconscious race bias. Previous studies indicate that close to 75 percent of white Americans show this implicit bias.

"The study's findings raise an interesting question: After nearly four years of having an African-American president in the White House, why do race attitudes continue to have a role in electoral politics?" Greenwald said.

He suspects that Obama's power as president in 2012, compared with his lesser status as candidate in 2008, may have "brought out race-based antagonism that had less reason to be activated in 2008."

Another possibility is that Republican candidates' assertions that their most important goal is to remove Obama from the presidency "may have strong appeal to those who have latent racial motivation," Greenwald said.

In other words, voters tend to have an unconscious (but measurable) white-bias in the US. The Republicans are out to oust Obama, and this single-minded charge to oust him appears to be increasing interest among those who do hold anti-black opinions to get out to vote. While it's legal for racists to vote (just as it's legal for gun owners, vegetarians, communists, etc. to vote), I do personally think that in their single-minded crusade to oust an alleged Muslim-non-American-Communist/Socialist/Nazi-terrorist from the White House, the GOP is hitching themselves to an angry, wild, hungry, ornery tiger: that's one beast that I won't want to be anywhere near if it were to get loose.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Repressive military dictatorships: what are they good for?

Well, apparently they are good for incidental protection of wildlife. Myanmar's increasing openness to global markets is likely to cause major impacts to their wildlife. It's interesting to note that the DMZ is also a local biodiversity hotspot in the Korean peninsula. It's almost as if a lack of humanity means that there isn't a destruction of natural processes, which means that there is an increase in biodiversity... Not so strange.

However, does this mean that ecologists and conservation biologists ought to support dictators? Uhh.... no. That's not even a question. Increased biodiversity hotspots can be maintained through local governance and conservation efforts throughout the nation. Enforcement of entry and use bans (as well as creating a focus on the trade of wildlife species when so many other social worries exist) would likely be difficult in a country that is emerging from a military dictatorship. However, instead of running wholeheartedly after urban development and resource extraction, it might help a country to develop and maintain a strong sense of pride, ownership, and stewardship of their natural resources, meaning that - although their economy may grow more slowly - they will maintain (hopefully in perpetuity) their natural heritage.

Of course, looking at the trend of how these things progress, I'm not going to be holding my breath.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Well, some of you know that you don't need introduction, since we are all living in the Anthropocene. What might (still) be staggering for some people (especially older people who didn't grow up with this reality so much in the forefront of their brains) is the rate and expanse of these impacts.

These include (but aren't limited to) deforestation, pollution, erosion, famine, migration, and climate change.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Hotel California remixes

Just came across this mariachi remix of Hotel California:

... and I decided to look for other linguistic and stylistic remixes on YouTube, and found a few:

Japanese remixes

Korean remix:

Indian remix:

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Fifty-mile bike ride

Yesterday, I took a ride to Hell, MI and then on to Pinkney, Whitmore Lake, and back to Ann Arbor.

Trip to Hell and back

Hell, the unincorprated community in Putnam Township, is about 21 miles northwest from Ann Arbor, but - due to unpaved roads - it's not so easy to bike to it, and the route we took was about 23 miles. This little community was all owned by a man named George Reeves, who set up a bunch of mills in the 1830s on what was known - at the time - as Hell Creek. The name for the area was (according to Wikipedia) based on an exclamation in German ("So schön hell!") or from Reeves himself who said - what the town should be called - "I don't care, you can name it Hell for all I care." (These, according to Wikipedia.) Anywho... the settlement was officially called Hell in 1841.

From Hell, we went onward to Pinkney - about a four-mile trip - via the Lakeland Trails State Park.

We stopped in at the Zukey Lake Tavern for some lunch (and mini tacos, in "celebration" of cinco de mayo), and spent a little too much time there. However, as we were leaving the Tavern, I saw a guy looking at my bike. Low and behold, it was one of the guys from Great Lakes Cycling who normally does maintenance on it (and suggested that I get the NuVinci hub). He had recognized my bike immediately and it was just serendipitous that we ran into each other at that time. He was finishing up a ride of his own, going back the other way down the Lakelands Trail. Anyway, after that short encounter, we were off: back to Ann Arbor (but with slightly more-full-than-necessary bellies, which made cycling more of a chore than it was than before we stopped for lunch).

Unfortunately, the Lakelands Trail doesn't go all the way to Whitmore Lake (or even to 9-mile, which is what Google Maps currently shows). The last mile isn't completed, so after cycling along the trail for 9.2 miles, it was a detour off to Hall Road, along Hamburg Lake on a dirt road, and then jumped over the highway to Whitmore Lake (taking 8-mile). Not the worst dirt road, and not horrible to cycle along 8-mile to get to Whitmore Lake, but not the most fun thing, either.

Once at Whitmore Lake, following Whitmore Lake Road all the way back to Bandermer Park was easy, and - thanks to the proximity of the highway - lightly traveled by cars. The final leg - all 16 miles - was relatively quiet, and the fatigue was starting to set in. My wrists were sore, my but was sore, and my legs were tired.

In total, including the cycling from home and back home, the trip was 58.24 miles.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Declining trends of the plural form of uncountable nouns

Seems like things are getting bad for plural forms of normally uncountable physical nouns:

Hint: "waters," "airs," "fishes," and "grains" are all correct. Therefore I am grammatically correct when I say:
The mixture of the waters and airs of the Gulf of Mexico provide for a great abundance in the fishes and grains produced in the area.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Cost to attend universtiy

I really think that it's kind of crazy that it costs less for a US student to go to university in the UK than in the US. Witness: a student who is going into a BA in history (starting in 2012) will pay the following:

Oxford University: £19,357/year (~$31,000/yr * 3 yrs/degree * 3%/yr inflation = ~$96,000)
Stanford University: $13,350/semester ($26,700/yr * 4 yrs/degree * 3%/yr inflation = ~$112,000)
New York University: $11,705/semester ($23,410/yr * 4 yrs/degree * 3%/yr inflation = ~$98,000)
UMich (Out-of-state): $18,794/semester (lower level); $20,121/semester (upper level) (~$158,000)
UMich (In-state): $6,220/semester (lower level); $7,023/semester (upper level) (~$54,000)

In these calculations, I assumed that there was only a 3% change in tuition cost year-by-year. Is this fair? Well, the average tuition costs have been rising at various rates, but many of them have been above 3%, so I'm going to say that it's a conservative estimate!

So... it is more expensive to send a student to a top-notch US university than the (arguably) #1 university in the UK (and the world). (Cost-of-living at Oxford is likely to be a little more expensive than at Stanford or UMich, though.)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Why is there sexual reproduction?

Just in case you didn't learn this in biology/evolution class (or didn't take an evolution class), and you want to know why sexual reproduction persists, here's a good video (and, yes, it's SFW):

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Phrasal verbs using "Up" and "Down"

The Amazing Atheist recently did a video about phrasal verbs using "Up" and "Down". To English-as-a-foreign-language people, phrasal verbs are often difficult to learn, since the meanings often have secondary meanings that have little direct meaning to the preposition connected to the verb.

See if you can understand Amazing Atheist's final sentence before you watch the video.
[You] wanted her to go down, but first you had to go up [to her apartment]. And even though the party was winding down, you still had to get through people who were getting down, only to find that you had to get her up. And by then you couldn't get it up. And when her boyfriend arrived all wound up, you knew that you were going down, so you had to get up the courage to throw down. But you wound up throwing up instead. Isn't that fucked up?

(NOTE: the video is kinda NSFW due to language.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Illdoc on the Trayvon Martin case

I really like Illdoc's videos, and the one about Trayvon Martin's case is another insightful one: